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Puigdemont on the run

Ousted Catalan premier wants to keep fueling the independence process from Brussels

The former Catalan regional premier Carles Puigdemont in Brussels.
The former Catalan regional premier Carles Puigdemont in Brussels. REUTERS

Following a supposedly clandestine trip to Brussels aimed at nurturing an epic, if clearly ridiculous, tale of exile, ousted Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont on Tuesday summoned the international media to a news conference where, once again, he described an alternative reality filled with falsehoods and incoherent claims.

On one hand, he denied that he has fled the country or that he is trying to evade justice. This is a surprising statement, considering his accredited queries regarding the possibility of seeking protection from the Belgian state and of the latter having squarely refused to consider it.

Puigdemont seems convinced that he can harm Spain’s image from his new location in Brussels

On the other hand, he painted a picture of an authoritarian Spain with no separation of powers, where people are persecuted for their political ideas in an environment dominated by far-right violence, then used this claim to justify his demand for “guarantees” that no action will be taken against him.

Then, adding to the confusion and the contradictions, Puigdemont said he accepts the democratic challenge posed by the December 21 election called in Catalonia by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy using the powers of Article 155, only to immediately urge Catalan society, unions and government workers to resist the application of Article 155, which he depicted as an act of aggression against the people of Catalonia and the Catalan Statute of Autonomy.

Not only that, but he also asserted that half of his deposed government – which he apparently still considers to be in possession of its functions – will remain in Brussels to seek international support for the independence process, while the other half – led by his former deputy Oriol Junqueras – will handle the matter from within Catalonia, as though there were a Catalan government in exile and one on Catalan territory.

Puigdemont painted a picture of an authoritarian Spain with no separation of powers

In his fantasy world, Puigdemont appears to be clinging to the absurd possibility of considering the December 21 election a plebiscite of sorts that might legitimize another leap into the dark for the pro-independence movement.

Puigdemont seems convinced that he can harm Spain’s image from his new location in Brussels, and drum up support for a cause that has drawn unanimous rejection. But the way he is exporting the secessionist absurdity, adding layers of indignity to the institution that he represented until last Friday, is creating so much unease in Belgium that Deputy Prime Minister Kris Peeters publicly asked Puigdemont to return to Catalonia to stand by his people.

Following secessionists’ failed leap in the dark of October 27, the Spanish government’s reaction under Article 155 of the Constitution, and the way that things have gone back to normal on the streets and in the institutions of Catalonia, the pro-independence movement now needs to decide whether and how to participate in the regional election of December 21.

One sector, led by Puigdemont, seems to favor continuing to deal in clever tactics, double play and half-truths. But the facts have proven that no matter how firmly the drivers of the independence process cling to their parallel reality, they are standing outside the law. They can choose to stay there and continue to make fools of themselves, attracting international rejection, or they can return to the fold of Spain’s democratic institutions and the rule of law. Time is running out.

English version by Susana Urra.

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